22 June 2023

'Winter is no exception': Canberrans urged to get prepared for wild weather now

| Claire Fenwicke
Join the conversation

What would you do if a natural disaster or emergency stopped you from getting into your home? Photo: File.

New research has found most Canberrans don’t have an emergency plan for wild weather, despite nearly a third of all Territory NRMA Insurance home claims coming from damage caused by Mother Nature during autumn.

The latest data from the NRMA Insurance Wild Weather Tracker found only 27 per cent of ACT residents took any steps to prepare for severe weather events in the past three months.

Direct claims executive general manager Luke Gallagher said it was important people didn’t become complacent over winter.

“It’s concerning that our research [adjusted for population] shows over 225,000 ACT residents don’t have an emergency plan,” he said.

“Planning for emergencies is not just about physical readiness, but also mental resilience and the ability to recover.”

Nationally, only one in five families (21 per cent) have discussed the safest place to meet in an emergency, while two-thirds of people said they didn’t know where they would safely keep their pets (66 per cent).

READ ALSO ANU study examines why renters aren’t getting the benefits of solar

There were 200 claims to NRMA Insurance for wild weather damage in the Territory over the recent autumn months, with 184 severe weather home claims (31.8 per cent of all ACT home claims) and 16 severe weather motor claims (0.5 per cent of all ACT motor claims).

The hardest hit suburbs were Kaleen, Kambah, Nicholls, Casey and Dunlop.

NRMA Insurance claims executive manager Natalie Major said many of the claims resulted from storm damage.

“It can be from heavy rainfall, lightning, but mainly we see claims due to water ingress [into the home] as a result of the wet weather,” she said.

While severe weather events usually ease off during winter in the capital region, there’s still the possibility for severe storms.

The colder months also present the perfect opportunity to prepare before the more volatile seasons.

“Winter is forecast to be warmer and drier than the average … which is likely to facilitate a higher risk of bushfires in spring and summer,” Ms Major said.

“Now’s the opportunity to get prepared for spring, but wild weather and emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime, and winter is no exception.”

READ ALSO New wind farm to boost Canberra’s renewable electricity supply

The warnings follow the launch of the improved Get Prepared app, co-created by the Australian Red Cross and NRMA Insurance.

The planning resource creates an all-hazards emergency RediPlan, storing in one place information such as key contacts, meeting places and important documents.

Australian Red Cross head of emergency services Andrew Coghlan said preparing in advance for any type of emergency was important.

“Emergencies can occur anywhere at any time, and when they happen, there are lots of decisions to make,” he said.

“We see first-hand the benefits of creating an emergency plan on the Get Prepared app, which not only helps your household prepare to respond to the physical impacts of emergencies but also prepare for the mental and social impacts of emergencies.”

On top of making an emergency plan, introducing yourself to your neighbours can make a difference when it comes to resilience and recovery after a disaster.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) also has a number of resources to be emergency ready, pointing out that Canberra can experience a number of different types of wild weather due to its elevation.

ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Rohan Scott said while winter tended to be the off-season for wild weather, strong winds could still be a concern, while the cold could cause other damage around the home, such as frozen pipes bursting.

“People need to be prepared all year round,” he said.

“It’s about being resilient and ready, and prepared well in advance so that you can make decisions in a timely manner when you’re under pressure.”

He also encouraged everyone to either make an emergency plan or, if they already have, review it regularly to ensure the whole family understood what they would need to do.

Home fire safety is particularly important in the winter months, as a fire can take hold within three minutes and cause significant damage, as shown in this demonstration by the ACT Fire & Rescue service.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

If we have drought conditions again I can visualize a repeat of the great bushfires of 20 years ago – it is difficult to see how these can be prevented even with things like back burning.The fuel load will be great because of 3 wet years. The trees behind me that just avoided going up 20 years ago may not be spared next time as they are now nearly twice the height and largely flammable species like gums.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.